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Academic Research > Diaspora/Migration > Seasonal Migration from Kythera towards the Turkish Occupied Greek and other Regions, and the Greek Revolution.

Academic Research > Diaspora/Migration

submitted by George N Leontsinis on 02.12.2005

Seasonal Migration from Kythera towards the Turkish Occupied Greek and other Regions, and the Greek Revolution.

Beginning 18th century –1821 approx.

With this paper, I attempt to address the issue of refugees that appeared in Kythera and Antikythera during the pre-revolutionary period and the time of the Greek Revolution. The central framework of this study consists of the multiple dimensions of the seasonal migration phenomenon of Kytherians towards the Turkish occupied Greek and other regions.

I will refer to the positive impact of the participation of the island’s residents in the Greek Revolution. In this paper, I examine the extent of this seasonal migration, which appeared in the 18th century and lasted until the commencement of the Greek revolution. In particular, from the middle of the 18th century this migrational movement towards Kythera and Antikythera is favoured by events during this period. I note however that, migration, seasonal and non, is continued after the establishment of the Greek state. For example, the High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands in 1841 confirmed, five hundred Kytherians, migrated annually to find work, to neighbouring and distant regions.

In particular, this work aims at outlining the relationship between the phenomenon of seasonal migration and the participation of Kytherians and refugees in the struggle for Greek Independence. It is emphasised however, that, more or less, the connection of this phenomenon with persons and events of the Greek revolution is observed in other Ionian Islands as well, but until today no relative studies have been made. I will not omit to mention that, during the period under examination, migration for permanent settlement is not of limited extent. Nevertheless, this permanent settlement occurs for regions furthest from Kythera, mainly towards Asia Minor, (Smyrna), which is a permanent migration centre for Kytherians from the 18th century. What we know about Kytherian migrants to Smyrna is very characteristic. As migration towards this city became more frequent and the numbers of Kytherian migrants, seasonal and non, had increased from the middle of the 18th century, all migrants that came from the Ionian Islands where called Kytherians, just like the Ionians of Constantinople were called Kefalonian and those from Patra, Zakynthians. Nevertheless, the persons who originally migrated for permanent settlement and returned to Kythera during the period of the Greek Revolution reacted in the same fashion towards social, political, and national issues as those of seasonal migration. The difference is in the fact that most refugees, Kytherians and other Greeks, and those returning to their homeland after a temporary stay in non-Kytherian regions, came from Greek regions closest to Kythera and Antikythera (Crete- Peloponnese- Sterea). In these regions the phenomenon of seasonal migration had reached its highest point.

From the beginning of the 18th century there is an increase in population, trade, shipping, light manufacturing, clearing of land, growth in land ownership for the greatest part of the population and the possibility for the establishment of agreements with better terms for the landless peasants. These elements provide the peasants and cultivators with the ability of sufficient self-consumption, which in the past was inadequate at least in some basic products (wheat, pulse, olive oil). During the farming and fruit picking period landless peasants, small freeholders, people who could not find sufficient work under the freeholding system or people who did not choose that option because it was not economically interesting, moved to the Turkish occupied Greek regions near Kythera and to Asia Minor. During the seasonal migration it was usually the heads of the families and the eldest brothers that migrated. The remaining members of the family, either cultivated their small piece of land or, in cases where it was not enough and there was the opportunity to cultivate other land, they would take up small farms under one of the categories of the freeholding agreements, giving preference to the “temporary partnership”. Heads and eldest brothers of landless families also migrated seasonally while the remaining members of the families cultivated, also under the freeholding system, small farms on the island. At times, and depending on their demand, technicians, permanent residents of Kythera would also migrate to supplement their income.

Seasonal migration of Kytherians towards Turkish occupied Greek and other regions, as an historical phenomenon, is caused and functions in the space and the time that it appears, under social, political, economical and national conditions. These were associated with the consequences of the foreign administration of the region, the increase of the population during the 18th and 19th centuries, the decline of the freeholding system and the development of trade, shipping and light manufacturing. These new facts contributed to the cause of the seasonal migration phenomenon, a phenomenon that concerns a large part of the Kytherian rural and semi-urban population. Meanwhile, analogous conditions had been created in the host regions. Kytherian trade and shipping in these regions, along with the seasonal migration of the island’s residents contributed to the cultivation of the farms, the harvesting of the produce and the offering of technical services by specialist technicians (“tampakides”, “ktistades”). This constituted a cultural communication between these regions, a communication that was a result of these economical and social contacts. These cultural relations developed through this indirect means of communication (seasonal and permanent settlement migration) between rural cultural surroundings. They also developed within the range of its urban element, mostly through trade and the periodical movement of technicians and shipping.

Nevertheless, the phenomenon of this seasonal migration exceeded the levels of its functioning and its structural organization. Under different conditions from its main structural components, that is, during the commencement of the Greek Revolution, it took a form of a decisive historical factor. It is also necessary to mention that the refugee problem that appeared in this period was strengthened by the political events on the islands. During this period the Ionian Islands were under British administration. The British administration had taken adverse measures for the Greek Revolution, in combination with the neutrality, which it wanted to impose on the population of the Ionian State. However, this functioned in favour of the Greek Revolution towards many directions during the pre-revolution period as well as during the development of the revolutionary movement of Hellenism. One of these directions is associated with the assistance and care of the refugees by the island’s residents, while other directions are placed in forms and practices of multi-levelled participation of the Heptanesians in the Greek Revolution.

During the commencement of the Greek Revolution, Kythera had already created a tradition of special forms of cultural communication, especially with Crete, Peloponnese, Sterea, eastern Aegean, the Argosaronikos Islands, the Cyclades, the Ionian and the coast of Asia Minor. However, when the Greek Revolution commenced, masses of refugees from many Turkish occupied regions sought care and protection at the Ionian Islands. Social contacts and relations between the local population had developed during seasonal migration mainly with neighbouring Peloponnese (Vatika, Gytheion, Sparta, Tripolis, Gargalianous, Kalamata, Messinian Mani, Ileia, Achaia, Argolida, Corinthia). For this reason, during the period of the national revolutionary action of the Greek population, Kythera was widely known and familiar to the Peloponnesean population. However, from the pre-revolutionary period it is mainly from the Southern part of Peloponnese that many fighters, scholars and priests took refuge in Kythera due to its geographic position. It is observed however that that refuge of these people to the islands didn’t lead only to their housing, care and protection. Gradually, Kythera and Antikythera became a “camp” of action for the social, political and national ideas of the time.

Generally, it is known that Kythera and Antikythera, like many other Ionian Islands were used as a base for revolutionary activity in the Turkish occupied insular and central Greece. Theodoros Kolokotronis, Lambros Katsonis, Lazaros Kountourgiotis, Gregorios Konstantas, Sophocles Economos, son of Constantine Economos of the Economos family, Stephanos and Nikolaos Economou, the famous French philhellene Joseph Balestra, Dionysios Pyrros the Thettalian, Andreas Miaoulis, Dimitrios Miaoulis, Dimitrios Tsamados, Anastasios Kokkinis, Georgios Prouskos, the Bishop of Ydra and Poros, Gerasimos Rallis Spanos, later Bishop of Argolida and Corinthia, the Archibishop of Euvoia Gregorios D’ “the Epeirotan” or “the Argyrokastritis” known as he of Paramythia and later Metropolitan of Athens, Bishops of Moschonisia, Benediktos and Bishop of Ilioupolis, Anthimos Komninos, monks Chrysanthos from Pelopennese and Agathaggelos, later the Metropolitan of Kaisareia, and many others took refuge in Kythera and stayed for a short or long period of time. The refugees, both Greek and other, in many cases brought reference letters addressed to permanent residents of Kythera or to refugees which had already taken refuge and were living in Kythera. This way, a safe stay was offered to a large number of fighters, scholars and clergymen as well as space for further action and organization of revolutionary planning. Many “kleftes” from Peloponnese and Sterea Ellada are amongst them, especially during the winter period. The lists compiled by the Civil Police of Kythera for the refugees during the first year of the revolution, inform us that they came from Jerusalem, Nikomedeia, Aivali, Eastern Romylia, Smyrna, Constantinople, Chios, Thessaloniki, Thessalia, Sterea Ellada, Kerkyra, Zakynthos, Kefalonia, Lefkada, Athens, Piraeus, Nafplio, Argos, Vatika, Tripolis, Kalamata, Gargalianous, Methoni, Koroni, Ileia, Achaia, (Patra-Aigio), Corinthia, Crete, the Argosaronikos Islands, Cyclades, Dodecanese, other Aegean Islands, Cyprus, Dalmatia, France, Russia, and Malta. However, the majority of the refugees come from Peloponnese, Crete, Sterea and Asia Minor. We also observe that the situation of the rebelled Greece has added insecurity to Kytherians who had sporadically migrated and settled in the Ionian Islands. From the study of relative sources I realise that part of these refugees were Kytherians, non-seasonal migrants that came from Asia Minor (Smyrna). These refugees were returning to their relatives in Kythera. However, other Greeks, mainly friends of these particular Kytherian migrants from the regions mentioned previously, were seeking a place of refuge near a relative or friend in familiar surroundings. In most cases these familiar surroundings had gradually been formed since the development of the working relations of Kytherians with the residents of these regions (seasonal or permanent settlement migration). Significant are also the figures of the refugees that took refuge in islands and sought protection from permanent residents of Kythera and Antikythera with whom they were not related nor they knew before.

It is difficult to determine the total number of seasonal Kytherian migrants and other Greeks from Greece and the Diaspora that sought protection and took refuge in Kythera. This is because exact numbers cannot be extracted from the lists of the local authorities and the Civil Police of Kythera. In addition, no numerical data on the numbers of Greek refugees to the islands was ever found in a systematic manner from the British services. It is worth mentioning the difficulty as to the possibility of a probable definition from the present study on the number of refugees, Kytherian and non, to the islands. The representatives of the communal self-government (nobles and priests of every large village or of the suburbs of the town, capital of the island) knowingly, confirmed inaccurately that the refugees to Kythera were of Kytherian origin. This was because the British authorities exercised a bureaucratic checking upon arrival of the refugees at the coast of the island in relation to their reason for their return to their hometown. At the same time they researched for possible previous revolutionary or other activities by them or the head of their family, at the rebelled Greek or other regions from which they came. A large number of the surnames of the refugees that we read in certificates don’t correspond with the British orders. The nobles and the priests who had received special orders from the local British authorities to check strictly the people who landed in Kytherian and Antikytherian ports, in many cases, wrote in their place Kytherian surnames so as to show that the people that took refuge in the islands were relatives of permanent residents. Or they would write surnames that were frequent in older times.

In doing that, the British administration, within the framework of the known “Ionian Neutrality” of the islands, wanted to avoid, for political reasons, the increase of the number of the refugees to the Ionian Islands but also to prevent possible extremities and challenges that would expose Britain and its policies to its ally, the Ottoman Empire. The British knew that the spread of the national activity of the Greeks in its colonies would have an adverse impact on its policy. In a letter by Kytherian, Ioulios Kasimatis, at Kotrona of Mani in September 1821 addressed to the Head of the Civil Police of Kythera, it is evident that in order to be allowed to enter the island, there had to be a reason for his stay out of Kythera prior or during the Greek Revolution. The content of the letters in many cases, don’t correspond with reality. Due to the fact that people could not state the truth, and being under pressure, were forced to state other reasons in order to explain their absence from the island. Also, during the Greek Revolution and the “Ionian Neutrality” the permits to exit the island were limited. In these permits the signed persons stated that they understood the consequences for themselves and their families in case of breach.

The climate of the revolutionary movement, which developed during the Greek Revolution in Kythera and Antikythera, took a multidimensional form. I mention mainly the participation of Kytherians in the pre-revolutionary movements of the Greeks, which was materialised with the provision of arms to the squadrons that were active during the two Russo-Turkish wars, as well as with the care and the support of the fighter-refugees of that period at the islands of Kythera. These two movements were the starting points of the national revolutionary action of the population during the pre-revolutionary period. In terms of provision of support in the pre-revolutionary struggle, Lambros Katsonis and his co-fighters used the ports of the island as well as other smaller squadrons during the period of the 2nd Russo-Turkish war. Primates of the island supported the “Council of Tsirigo” which was assembled by Lambros Katsonis. Participants were Kytherians and other Heptanesians who supported in many ways the revolutionary activities of Katsonis in the Aegean. We also know that Venice fostered Katsonis’ activities in the Aegean and its policy on that matter was mutual towards the policy of Russia against the Ottoman Empire. This contributed to the support of the national feelings of the population.

The refuge of Theodoros Kolokotronis from Peloponnese to Kythera in 1806 widened the presumption of a national awakening of the local populations. This had a positive outcome in Kythera and Antikythera for the course of the commencement and the development of the national issue. During the Greek Revolution, a body of Kytherian volunteers was formed which later moved to Peloponnese. Also, throughout the Greek Revolution, groups of permanent residents of Kythera supplied the army camps of Kolokotronis in Peloponnese with food, mainly rusks, pulse and wheat and other useful items. Gratitude letters and correspondence towards Kytherians from fighters of the Revolution indicate this.

Refugees were mainly from the middle class. The solidarity and mutual contribution constituted decisive factors in dealing with problems during those difficult times. This was a common acknowledgement by the population, refugee and local, as well as a criterion of their personal status. From oral confirmations and the relative correspondence of that era, we gather that refugees usually stayed at the homes of permanent residents of the island or in the farmhouses (“spitakia”). Each assisted each other the best way they could. Those who thought that they could give something specific, devoted time and energy to collect food and other goods and forward them to the army camps of Theodoros Kolokotronis. The Alvanaki brothers from the capital of the island, Chora, transported food and ammunition collected by the organized support teams with their ships to the ports of Peloponnese. Through these frequent trips and the direct communication with revolutionaries more fighters were transported to the field ready for action. These deeds were recognised by the official administrative authorities of the Revolution and Theodoros Kolokotronis as tasks of significant national importance. Even though the urban mentality and the relative practices are not clear through the dealings of the people in charge, the decisions and the initiatives by people involved in the revolutionary procedure (purchases of raw materials, payment of fares etc), were well regarded. The offering of material and services to the war effort were officially recognised by the leaders of the Revolution and regarded as exceptionally necessary, very useful and salutary for their cause.

It is worth mentioning that the arrival of refugees in Kythera was not only due to its geographical position or to events of the previous seasonal or permanent settlement migration. There were refugees who took refuge in the islands of Kythera and Antikythera for reasons other that seasonal or permanent settlement migration. It is due to these refugees that social relations developed and Kythera became the preferred island by many. The period of the seasonal migration, during this time, had social impacts on the island.

Kythera, due to its geographical position and the various political conditions under the regime of a foreign, non-Ottoman sovereignty, as with the other Ionian Islands, accepted refugees, fighters, scholars, laymen and priests from the pre-revolutionary period. Their number increased, as it was expected, from the first period of the Greek Revolution. At this phase, the civil population (women, children and elderly) is higher. It is also clear that the number of fighters, scholar refugees and others who in many ways participated in the support and the solution of the national issue, resided in the islands of Kythera and Antikythera. This was because they were of the view that these islands offered suitable land for the further organization of their revolutionary action. Their assistance towards the Struggle of National Independence included the supply of food, ammunition, moral and material support to Peloponnese. The organised teams of fighters of the Greek Revolution that were at the island as refugees or had taken refuge in the island also assisted in the organization and planning of revolutionary action, education, housing and care of other refugees.

From relative correspondence of the era, the lists by the Civil Police of Kythera and Antikythera, the various documents by the Police and the local authorities (nobles and priests), the positive role of the phenomenon of seasonal migration, the multiple participations, is proven beyond doubt. Dealing with various financial and social issues that had resulted due to the high number of refugees in Kythera and Antikythera was successful to a certain degree. This success was due to the working relation of seasonal migration with the birthplace.

However, the financial success was limited due to the fact that Kythera, had not accepted only Greek refugees during the Greek Revolution. The British authorities, after a request and consultation with the “Ypsili Pyli” had allowed the entrance of Ottoman Turkish refugees from Peloponnese in the Ionian Islands who were transported on chartered ships under the protection of the British administration of the islands. As it is confirmed, in the case of Kythera, the maintenance and security of the Ottoman Turkish refugees was taken up by the British administration of Kythera. The Ottoman Empire would send monetary assistance to the British authorities in ottoman currency, which was not enough to cover the maintenance expenses of the Turkish refugees. This caused lack of food supplies in the local market. The introduction of Turkish refugees in the islands caused bloodshed and other episodes between these two nationalities and religious groups who co-inhabited Kythera.

Through the study of the phenomenon of seasonal migration of Kytherians to the Turkish occupied Greek and other regions, the multiple participation of the local church, leadership and authorities (nobles and priests) was revealed. The phenomenon of seasonal migration is a theme that I elected to present this evening, as it is a theme that attracted my attention during my research, locally and abroad, while completing my PhD. The aim of this lecture is to outline the phenomenon of seasonal migration of Kytherians as the basis of historical events, which contributed along with other factors to ease the refugee problem at the islands of Kythera and Antikythera prior and during the Greek Revolution and to the participation of the permanent residents and refugees of the island in the struggle of independence. This lecture also aimed at revealing other parameters such as the introduction of refugees in the society of the islands of Kythera and Antikythera, a phenomenon that extends to other levels such as cultural, educational and social welfare.

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